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10 Most Important Vaccines in Human History

Meet the superheroes of modern medicine! Since its creation in 1796, vaccination has been saving millions of lives from gruesome infectious diseases, like smallpox and measles. Deadly pustules, internal bleeding, pneumonia, and coughs so hard that you’ll break ribs. Discover the vaccines that helped you escape death from loads of terrifying diseases.

Vaccines are one of the greatest inventions of the last 150 years. They’ve all but eradicated deadly diseases like smallpox, polio, and measles from most of the world. The same vaccines that allowed civilization to flourish in the twentieth century, however, have become a political hot button in the twenty-first. What changed?


Vaccination date: 1920s
Annual death prevented: 50.000 – 200.000
Diphtheria bacterium multiplies in victim´s throats and releases a deadly toxic that can lead to a swollen neck. Usually accompanied by a thick, grey membrane at the back of the throat – this is actually dead tissue which can lead to suffocation. Those infected have a 105 chance of dying. Outbreaks are rare thanks to the vaccine. When vaccination rates fell in the former Soviet Union following the end of the Cold War, cases increased almost 10.000% in less than a decade.


Vaccination date: 1921
Annual death prevented: 200.000
Tuberculosis is the second biggest infectious killer worldwide, behind only HIV and AIDS. It´s thought tom cause 1.5 million deaths annually. It attacks the lunge and destroy the respiratory tract. Sufferers cough up blood brought on by the formation of hard nodules in the lungs called tubercles. The vaccine has an estimated effectiveness of up to 80%, and combined with other treatments has led to a 41% decline in the prevalence of tuberculosis since 1990.


Vaccination date: 1885
Annual death prevented: 250.000 – 350.000¨
Commonly found in bats, dogs, and raccoons, rabies is a vicious viral disease the triggers fatal brain inflammation. If bitten, prepare to experience delirium, aggressiveness and body spasms. Infected victims also develop hydrophobia, which stops them from swallowing and causes them to panic when presented with liquids. By the time symptoms start to show, your death is inevitable. 95% of deaths occur in Asia and Africa, although the disease has been eradicated in 15 countries worldwide.


Vaccination date: 1952
Annual death prevented: 300.000 – 500.000
The polio virus likes to dwell in water, and is contracted through food, fluids, and fecal matter. Rarely fatal, it can cause a fever, nerve cell degeneration, and paralysis. One woman had own lungs were damaged by the poliovirus – she spent her entire life living in the huge metal ventilator. Cases of polio have decreased by more than 99% since 1988 – the disease has been eradicated from all but 10 countries. The World Health Organization hopes to rid the world of it completely by 2018.

06Haemophilus influenza B

Vaccination date: 1985
Annual death prevented: 300.000 – 400.00
Haemophilus influenza is a deadly bacterial disease which usually targets children under 5 years old. The bacteria causes meningitis, pneumonia and devastating neurological damage even if antibiotics are given straight after infection. There is hope though, as the vaccine is between 95 to 100% effective. Prior to vaccination 20.000 children developed severe Haemophilus influenza B in the USA every year – 20 year later the number stands at 26.

05Hepatitis B

Vaccination date: 1960
Annual death prevented: 400.000
Transmitted through bodily fluids, the most common causes of infection are through blood saliva, unprotected sex, and sharing needles. The virus cab lives outside of the human body for 7 days before infecting its victims. The illness destroys the liver, resulting in jaundice, fatigue, and liver disease. Doctor Baruch Blumberg accidental discovery of the virus led him to develop the first ever anticancer vaccine, as hepatitis B causes 805 of liver cancer cases.

04Whooping cough

Vaccination date: 1950s
Annual death prevented: 500.000 – 600.000
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a violent infection that leaves its victims gasping for breath as bacteria plays havoc with their lungs. The resulting coughing fits are so violent they cause vomiting, fainting, and even cause sufferers to break ribs. Some cases of whooping cough can last up to 10 weeks, left untreated it can lead to pneumonia. Today over 80% of the all infants worldwide are vaccinated against the disease.


Vaccination date: 1924
Annual death prevented: 700.000
Naturally residing on rust and metals, tetanus enters the body through open wounds. The bacteria released a neurotoxin which latches onto nerve endings, and causes frightening symptom. Your body and jaw will stiffen, before succumbing to muscle spasm and seizures which are so violent that you´ll break bones and stop breathing. Thanks to vaccination programs, the number of newborn babies dying from Tetanus each year has fallen from 790.000 in 1988 to just 50.000 today.


Vaccination date: 1960s
Annual death prevented: 1.2 million
One of the most infectious viruses known to man, measles can stay alive and airborne without a host for hours. Sufferers experience flu=like symptoms, before being hit by a painful and spotty rash, which can last up to 3 weeks. Bouts of measles rarely occur without complications, including pneumonia, diarrhea, and in some cases, progressive brain damage. Although vaccination has reduced the number of deaths by 75% since 2000, someone still dies of the disease every 3 minutes.


Vaccination date: 1796
Annual death prevented: 3-5 million
Responsible for up to 500 million deaths in the 20 century, smallpox killed more than Hitler, Stalin, Mao, both WW and the Spanish flu pandemic combined. Transmitted by sneezing or coughing, it leaves victims with flu-like symptoms, before smothering them in scaly pustules and causing internal bleeding. A third of people who contract smallpox will die within 2 weeks of infection. It´s not uncommon for smallpox survivors to lose their sight, nose, lips, and body extremities to the virus. Smallpox is the only disease that we have totally eradicated through vaccination. Although stocks of the virus still exist in two labs – one American, one Russian.
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